Utah’s largest cities underperforming in education and safety

Rankings and scores for nine Utah cities based on Apartment List’s Best Cities for Families report.

Utah may have the reputation as a family-friendly state, but according to a new report by Apartment List, an online rental marketplace, the state’s largest cities rank lower in education and safety with Salt Lake City ranked as the least family friendly city in the state.

To determine a city’s “family friendliness” grade, staff at Apartment List looked at Census, FBI and Department of Education reports and calculated the scores based on weighted data from four categories: safety (35 percent), housing affordability (30 percent), education quality (25 percent) and child friendliness (10 percent).

Apartment List ranked the largest 510 cities (although the report is missing data for West Valley City) and found that based on the research criteria, Layton is Utah’s most family friendly city while the Wasatch Front’s three economic centers Ogden, Provo and Salt Lake City ranked the least family friendly.

None of Utah’s cities ranked in the top ten nationally four cities did rank well nationally.  Layton almost cracked the top 10 coming in at number 12.  Orem, South Jordan and St. George ranked 31st, 39th and 43rd respectively.

Two Utah cities, South Jordan and West Jordan, ranked in the top 10 nationally among the four categories.  South Jordan ranked first in affordability and eighth in child friendliness.  West Jordan ranked ninth in child friendliness.  Affordability rankings were based on median gross rent as a percentage of the city’s average household income.  Child friendliness was based on the percentage of the population under the age of 18.

Understandably, having the highest birthrate in the country meant that Utah’s cities scored high in child friendliness, with five of the nine Utah cities ranked placing in the top 100 cities. Besides South and West Jordan top 10 rankings, Layton placed 17th in child friendliness while Sandy and Orem also cracked the top 100 coming in at 50th and 74th respectively.

The state also did well in terms of affordability (though the methodology doesn’t look at the percentage of residents that can afford rent) with four cities ranking in the top 100.  Apart from South Jordan’s first place ranking, Layton, Orem, and St. George ranked 16th, 33rd and 94th respectively.  Two other cities, Salt Lake and Sandy just missed the top 100 coming in at 103rd and 111th.

Utah’s cities may be more affordable and child-friendly, but overall most ranked low in safety and education.

To determine safety, Apartment List looked at the total number of violent crimes and property crimes per 100,000 residents.   Only two cities ranked among the 100 safest cities.  St. George ranks 63rd for safety, while Provo comes in at number 100.  Layton and Orem ranked just outside of the top 100 at 102nd and 114th.  Salt Lake City was ranked the second least safe city among the largest 510 cities, only Miami Beach Fla scored lower.  According to Apartment List, there were 10,186 crimes per 100,000 residents in Salt Lake City in 2015.  Ogden was Utah’s second least-safest ranking 118th least-safe nationally.

As a group, Utah cities performed the poorest in the education category.  Nationally, Utah ranks dead last in per pupil education spending.  The team at Apartment List looked at high school graduation rates to calculate education scores.  Based on graduation rates, only Layton and Orem ranked among the top 100 with Layton ranking 49th and Orem ranking 92nd.  St. George was the third best performing in the state ranking 158th nationally.  Three Utah cities ranked in the top 100 least educated, Ogden ranks 36th, Provo ranks 68th and Salt Lake City ranks 79th least educated cities based on high school graduation rates.  According to Apartment List, Salt Lake City’s high school graduation rate is 74 percent, compared to 82 percent nationally.  As a state, Utah’s graduation rate is just above the national average at 83 percent.

The top ten family friendly cities are all wealthy suburban cities.  Among the top 100 cities, only one, El Paso Texas, is a major city.  While family friendly rankings tend to favor lower density and affluent communities, studies show that living closer to the urban core increases the likelihood of social and economic upward mobility.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at isaac@buildingsaltlake.com.